Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Tsunami preparedness information for Cebuanos

As we observed the unpreparedness of the Filipinos (specially in the Visayas area) in a disaster scenarios that make them vulnerable. As I cited the event that happened in the Visayas particularly in Cebu City, where people are panicking which generated hysteria and chaos. It all started when PHILVOCS ( Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology) announces a tsunami warning number 2. The cebuanos did not understand the warning, it resulted into panic and chaos. People are racing to one another for higher ground as rumors of an incoming tsunami spread. Students,government and private employees  were immediately sent home. Stores and vehicles were left open and unattended because everyone wanted to evacuate as quickly as possible.

What is a tsunami ?
 A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions (including detonations of underwater nuclear devices), landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances above or below water.

Pacific Ring of Fire

Earthquake could happen again, even in a stronger magnitude, so we should not take a chance. We should educate ourselves and to plan our systematic and appropriate actions so that the hysteria that happened last February 6 2012 would not happen again. The city government of Cebu should make some precautionary measures and guidelines that should be used and be followed during a massive  emergencies and disaster such as earthquake and tsunami. We should and must do this because we are located in the Pacific ring of fire region (is an area where large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, about 90% of the world's earthquakes and 89% of the world's largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire ) Even though that it is less likely that Cebu Island can experience a massive wave such as a tsunami because it is located in the heart of the Philippines where it is surrounded with Islands (Panay island in the west, Bohol, Leyte and Samar in the east, and Negros Island in the south west) which serves Cebu's natural protective barrier. Cebu is not facing an open ocean like Sendai and Meyagi of Japan, by both are facing the open Pacific. But we should be prepared and vigilant in all occasions. The only event that Cebu Island might experience a tsunami when if there is a massive earthquake that  happen on its surrounding Islands which will trigger a Biblical scale landslide ( when a part or a whole mountain will slide down towards the sea for example). As what happened in Lituya Bay in Alaska on July 9, 1958, an earthquake caused a landslide in the Crillon Inlet at the head of the bay, generating a massive mega tsunami measuring 524 m (1,719 ft). For comparison, the Empire State Building is 448 m (1,470 ft) high including its antenna spire.

How does the Tsunami Warning System work?

Here is how the basic tsunami warning system works, first a key concept, there are two sources of tsunami, a distant source and a local source.
A local source : If you feel violent shaking for several minutes, head for a higher ground. The earthquake is your warning.
What To Do?  time is limited. Geologic history showed waves with this event were as high as 30 feet. So you must get at least that high above sea level to top it off. The earthquake will also result in the coastal area subsiding as much as six feet, meaning the ground and roadways will likely be very uneven, and you are now that much lower to sea level. Since the roads will be in pieces, evacuation must be on foot. Another form of evacuation is vertical evacuation into a sturdy building of at least three stories and climb to at least the third story.

A Distant Source : The perimeter of the Pacific Ocean Basin, nicknamed the Ring of Fire, has several earthquake sources that can produce strong earthquakes of 7.0 magnitude or greater. During the 20th century, there were three 9.0 magnitude or greater quakes, the last was the 1964 Alaskan quake of 9.2 magnitude that produced a tsunami throughout the Pacific Basin. These kind of earthquakes permit a lead time of hours before their subsequent tsunami reaches our coastline. 

What To Do? - A Tsunami Warning System is in place to help minimize loss of life and property. The West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska monitors for earthquakes and subsequent tsunami events. If a tsunami is generated, they issue tsunami advisories, watches and warnings, as well as tsunami information statements for the U.S. mainland, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii provides similar services for the Aloha state as well  serve as the International Tsunami Warning Center for 25 other member countries in the Pacific Ocean Basin. (That's to include the Philippines.)

Both of the tsunami warning centers use earthquake information, tide gauges and now a new tool from  tsunami detection buoys, developed by NOAA's (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. Six of these buoys are now deployed in the north Pacific to help scientists determined whether a tsunami has been generated and moving across the Pacific before reaching the coastlines - another tool in the tsunami warning centers warning toolbox to help avoid any false alarms. More of these buoys would help detection as well as provide backup to one another since the buoys suffer outages in the harsh north Pacific Ocean.

NOTE: If you want to be informed if there is a imminient tsunami warning anywhere in the world you can register here . Be a member,  SMS will be sent to you if there is a imminient tsunami  anywhere in the world and STOP PANICKING. This is more reliable.

These are some example guidelines in cases of tsunami.

Guideline 1: Communications and Coordination Center

A key to effective hazards management is effective communication. This is especially true in tsunami emergencies, since wave arrival times may be measured in just minutes. Such a "short-fused" event requires an immediate, but careful, systematic and appropriate response. To ensure such a proper response, communities must have established the following:

1. 24-Hour Warning Point. To receive recognition under the Tsunami Ready Program, an applying agency will need to have a 24-hour warning point (WP) that can receives  tsunami information and provide local reports and advice. Typically, this might be a law enforcement or fire department dispatching point. For cities, towns or barangay  without a local dispatching point, an agency could act in that capacity for them. For communities 2,500 residents and no  agency to act as a 24 hour warning point, the community must designate responsible persons who are able to receive warnings 24 hours per day and have the authority to start local warning systems. The warning point will need to have:
24 hour operations.
Warning reception capability.
Warning dissemination capability.
Ability and authority to start local warning system.

2. Emergency Operations Center. Agencies serving jurisdictions larger than 2,500 people will need an Emergency Operations Center (EOC). It must be staffed during tsunami events to execute the warning point's tsunami warning functions.

Summarized below are tsunami-related roles of an EOC:

Activated based on predetermined guidelines related to tsunami information and/or tsunami events.( to be informed if there is an  tsunami alert anywhere in the Philippines)
Staffed with emergency management director or designee.
Must have warning reception/dissemination capabilities equal to or better than the warning point.
Ability to communicate with adjacent EOCs/Warning Points.
Ability to communicate with local NWS office or Tsunami Warning Center.

Guideline 2: Tsunami Warning Reception

Warning points and EOCs each need multiple ways to receive  tsunami warnings. Tsunami Ready guidelines to receive  warnings in an EOC/WP require a combination of the following, based on population:

Direct link to PHILVOCS office: e.g. amateur or VHF radio
E-mail from Tsunami Warning Center: Direct e-mail from Warning Center to emergency manager
Pager message from Tsunami Warning Center: Page issued from Warning Center directly to EOC/WP
Radio/TV via Emergency Alert System: Local Radio/TV or cable TV
Coast Guard broadcasts channels
National Warning System (NAWAS) Guideline 4: Warning Dissemination

1. Upon receive warnings or other reliable information suggesting a tsunami is imminent, local emergency officials should communicate the threat with as much of the population as possible. Receiving Tsunami Ready recognition requires having one or more of the following means of ensuring timely warning dissemination to citizens (based on population):

A community program that subsidizes the purchase of
Outdoor warning sirens.
Television audio/video overrides.
Other locally-controlled methods, e.g. local broadcast system or emergency vehicles.
Phone messaging (dial-down) systems.
2. At least one  alert receiver must be located in each critical public access, government-owned building, and must include 24 hour warning point, EOC. Critical public access buildings should be defined by each community's tsunami warning plan. Recommended locations include: all schools, public libraries, hospitals, fairgrounds, parks and recreational areas, public utilities, sports arenas, Dept's of Transportation, and designated shelter areas. 

3. For Towns a wide communications network ensuring the flow of information among all   towns and barangay within its borders. This would include provision of a warning point for the smaller towns, and fanning out of the message as required.

Guideline 5: Community Preparedness

Public education is vital in preparing citizens to respond properly to tsunami threats. An educated public is more likely to take steps to receive tsunami warnings, recognize potentially threatening tsunami events, and respond appropriately to those events.
Communities seeking recognition in the Tsunami Ready Program must:
Conduct or sponsor tsunami awareness programs in schools, hospitals, fairs, workshops, and community meetings (number of talks per year is based on population).
Define tsunami evacuation areas and evacuation routes, and install evacuation route signs.
Designate a tsunami shelter/area outside the hazard zone.
Provide written tsunami hazard information to the populace, including:
Hazard zone maps
Evacuation routes
Basic tsunami information
These instructions can be distributed through mailings, i.e., utility bills, within phone books, and posted at common meeting points such as libraries and public buildings throughout the community.
Local schools must meet the following guidelines:
Encourage the inclusion of tsunami information in primary and secondary school curriculums. NWS will help identify curriculum support material.
Provide an opportunity biennially for a tsunami awareness presentation.
Schools within the defined hazard zone must have tsunami evacuation drills at least biennially.
Written safety material should be provided to all staff and students.
Have a earthquake plan.

Guideline 6: Administrative
No program can be successful without formal planning and pro-active administration.
 To be recognized in the Tsunami Ready Program:

1. A tsunami warning plan must be in place and approved by the local governing body.
This plan must address the following:
Warning point procedures.
EOC activation guidelines and procedures.
Warning point and EOC personnel specification.
Hazard zone map with evacuation routes.
Procedures for canceling an emergency for those less-than-destructive tsunamis.
Guidelines and procedures for activation of sirens, cable TV override, and/or local system activation in accordance with state Emergency Alert System (EAS) plans, and warning fan-out procedures, if necessary.
Annual exercises.
2. Yearly visit/discussion with local  Forecast Office (philvocs) . This can be a visit to the office, phone discussion, or e-mail contacts.
3. PhilVocs officials will commit to visit accredited communities, at least every other year, to tour EOCs/Warning Points and meet with key officials.

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